Ibiza Tapas, Hamden
Ignacio Blaco's Ibiza Tapas puts the hot into hot spot.
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Ibiza Tapas ★★★ ½ (Superior-Extraordinary)
What I like best about Ibiza Tapas restaurant and wine Bar is that it gives us a taste (actually a multiplicity of tastes) of the real Spain, a place far more exciting than the “Sunny Spain” of tourist brochures. Galicia, for example, where chef-owner Ignacio Blanco comes from, has a long, craggy, windswept, rain-washed coast with thrilling views and the best seafood in the world—which Ignacio (as everyone calls him) personally imports for his restaurants.
I know because I am an Ignacio Blanco fan from way back. Chef, restaurateur, visionary and éminence grise behind Connecticut’s finest Spanish restaurants, Blanco is always on the move, always ahead of the curve.
The first time I tasted his food was at Meigas in Norwalk. I had just come back from Madrid, Seville and Barcelona on a trip spotlighting Spain’s celebrated cocina de vanguardia, which at the time was duking it out with France’s nouvelle cuisine in the I-can-be-more-cutting-edge-than-you-can arena. Finding this delicious new Spanish cuisine here in Connecticut was an exciting surprise.
A lot of sangria has gone under the bridge since then. Meigas won awards and changed hands. Ignacio Blanco turned his second restaurant, Pica Tapas in New Haven, into haute, hip Ibiza, which soon became recognized as one of the best Spanish restaurants in the United States. Now he’s done it again with Ibiza Tapas, a sophisticated wine bar with cutting-edge decor, a convivial vibe and suave low lighting after dark.
The menu is an encyclopedia of tapas, all under $10. Hot, Cold, Traditional, Modern —40 at least. Count them. (I did.) But an artist, not a bean counter, is at work here so don’t take the categories too seriously. Inspiration is where you find it and this chef finds it everywhere, coming up with dishes so delightful they virtually beg for fancy names. But Ibiza Tapas doesn’t go in for whimsical appellations. It really is about the food.